Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Abstract

From antiquity until the turn of the nineteenth century, temperament, mood and personality were believed to exist within, be managed by, and interact with material substance. Before the medical revolution of the late seventeenth century, early modern theories of anatomy and medicine were primarily based on the writings of Galen, who lived in the second century but was him influenced by a much older medical and philosophical tradition. In this period, the playwrights raise the same central question that now appears in so many reactions to the increasingly accepted "neurocentric" world view: "to what extent do I have an emotional "self" who is autonomous from my physical, mortal form?"

For both the Galenic and the neuroscientific thinker, the internal workings of the body not only affect, but are one's emotional and psychological state. I argue that neither the theory of the material humoral body nor the theory of the material chemical brain can provide a stable explanation for emotional experiences. Instead, both the early modern writers and my contemporaries weave together "dualistic habits of thought" and the monistic, materialistic language (of either Galenic humoralism or neurobiology) to narrate their emotions, desires and self-knowledge. I explore how the understanding of emotion as bodily material (the Galenic humors, being moved by passions and animal spirits, or brain neurons, transmitting and reabsorbing neurotransmitters) affects the extent to which we believe we can govern our emotional responses.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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